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A blog about all things allergen-free and delicious

Entries in gardening (2)


Harvest Time: From Farm to Table to Little Mouths!


By Melanie Potock, MA, CCC-SLP, of


The Joy of Gardening

When I walk about my neighborhood, I love to stroll past our community garden: plot after plot of vegetables lined up in perfect order, ready for inspection.  In the cool Colorado evenings, parents and kids gather to ooh and ahh at what new plant is peeking out of the earth.  Today I saw a three year old cutting lettuce with “safety scissors” that his mom had brought especially for his little fists.

Teaching kids to become more adventurous eaters begins in the garden.   When I decided to produce a children’s CD that celebrated the joy of food, I knew it had to include a garden song.  Joan Huntsberry Langford, the singer and songwriter, titled it “Harvest Time” and recreated the sensory experience of growing food in the garden, harvesting and ultimately, enjoying it together around the family table.


Healing Picky Eating Begins in the Dirt

Cucumbers curling around a trellise.Got a picky eater at home?  Learning about new foods doesn’t start with steamed broccoli sitting on their dinner plate.  It starts with a seed, or a tiny plant and most importantly, little hands in dirt.  Children love to take care of living things, and plants are no exception.  Daily watering and tending to a garden gently exposes a child to a new food until harvested, when it eventually finds its way to a lovely family dinner.  

When I work with children in the community and we are exploring a garden, I bring a clean bucket of cool water with us.  While most children love to play in dirt, some are tactilely defensive, especially picky eaters.  Having a bucket to swiftly drop a muddy carrot in or to wash tickly palms eases their uncertainty about touching something gritty.  Plus, we may get up the courage to wash that carrot right then and there and even see how loud we can crunch it!  Feeding therapists like kids to get dirty, the sensory experience is part of learning about new food.  But, if your child is particular about keeping his hands clean, child sized gardening gloves are an option.  Better yet, kid-sized tools make it twice as fun!  Ideally, larger family gardens have paths for little feet and rows of hardy crops (to ensure success) that are within easy reach for children to explore.  Smaller, raised bed gardens are perfect for any child to explore the perimeter or sit on the edge as they pick sugar snap peas or cucumbers. Have you tried growing your cucumbers up a trellis or chicken-wire fence?  Brilliant method and so easy!


My Dad & Family Gardening Love

My daughter & my Papa breaking garden ground, many moons ago.
When I was a child, my Dad kept a pocket knife in his “dungarees” when we gardened together.  My Dad is now almost 91 and this is the first year that he has not planted a garden.  One of my fondest memories of Dad was growing kohlrabi, a cabbage like veggie that has a tough, outer skin.  Dad would let the 5 year –old me tug away at the vegetable until it popped out of the dirt, almost toppling me backward.  Then he would slap it against his thigh to shatter the dirt clods, dunk it in a bucket of water (hmmm…that’s where I go that idea!) and use his pocket knife to carve away at the hard outer core.  What lie beneath was a cross between a mild radish and an apple. Similar to the texture of jicama, but not at all like jicama; well,  more like kohlrabi. 


Kohlrabi, cleaned and ready to eat.

It may be hard to describe the taste and texture of a kohlrabi, but what I remember vividly is that time with my Dad.  It was our time.  As I grew to have a family of my own, I asked my Dad to start a planting tradition with my girls.  Each summer, he would be bring over giant pumpkin seeds to plant in our horse pasture.   Daddy would dig a decent hole and hand the seeds to my daughters to drop in before he covered it, patted down a nice mound and finally handed the hose to the girls for the pumpkin seed’s first long drink. 

Gardening creates memories for your family.  Whether a pot of herbs on the kitchen window sill or an acre of corn, there is nothing quite like the experience of coming together as a family to plant and enjoy the harvest.  Best wishes to all of you during Harvest Time!


About Melanie

Melanie Potock, MA, CCC-SLPMelanie is speech language pathologist who specializes in feeding.  Her work brings her into the homes and schools of her clients, kids, who for various reasons have difficulty with food or with eating. She works with kids and their parents to develop effective strategies that help children become “more adventurous eaters”.  At least 50% of her clients have food allergies or intolerances, and for them, “adventurous eating” takes on a special meaning.  Melanie is also the author of Happy Mealtimes with Happy Kids” and the executive producer of “Dancing in the Kitchen.”


More Posts From Melanie

Why Children with Autism are Often Picky Eaters

Review:  The Magic of the BellyFull Kit (From the Hopeful Company)

The 12 Days of Christmas -- My Favorite Lunchtime Things (Part 1)

Tips to Help Your Food Allergic Child Belong During the Holidays

How to Talk Turkey (and Food Allergies) at Thanksgiving

How Can Parents Feel Less Stress with a Food Allergic Child in School?

Follow Your Gut:  What's Eating My Daughter's Stomach? (Part I)


Garden Organic: The Battle of the Blight

In the Beginning

It started last year with little black spots on my oregano.  I was surprised.  Maybe this plant (whose oils are usually powerful enough to resist anything) wasn’t getting enough sun.  But I was quite sure that Adam and Eve had never seen little black spots in their garden.  Then the spots spread to my precious mint and tarragon.   I did what the Internet told me to do and cleared out all of the infected leaves, bagged them and trashed them.  I started spraying every leaf with a mixture of apple cider vinegar and water every single evening.  It seemed to work.  But after a week of heavy rain and strong wind, the blight spores waved their little victory flag and left that discriminating corner of herbs.   It attacked the zucchini (dead quickly) and then spread to my prized tomatoes.  Those flippin' spots soon felled so many leaves that the tomato plants looked like their proverbial loin clothes had been ripped off – love apples exposed.  My rosemary and cucumbers even got it (and I’m not saying anything proverbial about the cucumbers).  

The spots didn’t affect any of the vegetables directly until late in the season.  But without leaf cover, the produce throughout the summer was thin at best.  My plants were prematurely balding and not in a sexy, high-testosterone kinda way. 

And my greens.  Oh my 10 different varieties of health-giving greens that were so bountiful in the past provided no garden-to-table salad last summer.  

Lessons Learned:  Tenderly Nurture

The Fulton Street Farmers' Market in Grand Rapids, MI
In past seasons, I’ve learned that if you plant a seed, it comes up miraculously bringing joy and love to all with appetites.  I have also learned that 25 zucchini plants can fuel a small restaurant for 3 months.  

This summer, I thought my lesson was about control because infuriating stuff happens that interferes with the miracle of food and sends you to the grocery store instead of the dirt behind your house.  But my lesson is really about nurture.  A little knowledge from the experts can help keep the love coming from backyard to table.  

I found my first lead at the Fulton Street Farmers Market in Grand Rapids, MI.

UnPesticidal Advice:  How to Control Leaf Spot

I had contacted several experts throughout the year and no one wanted to touch this one.  I almost gave up, dumped a bunch of manure on the land and left it for a year.  Or maybe forever.  But the gardening bug bit again this spring and I was so excited to play in the dirt that I simply I had to try.  

First Expert: Trillium Haven Farms

When I went to the Fulton Street Farmers’ Market a couple of weekends ago, I hesitantly picked up heirloom tomato and pepper plants.  Then I spoke to Trillium Haven Farm owners Anja Mast and Michael Vanderbrug.  We had a very interesting conversation and were kind enough to answer a few of my questions.

Rainy Day Advice From Michael VerBrug from Trillium Haven FarmsTheir Advice:  Build up the immune system of your soil.  Soil is like your own immune system and 75% of yours lies in your intestines.  Your intestines, like the soil, need a healthy balance of vitamins and minerals to absorb into your body.  Your intestines also need the right balance of friendly bacteria in order to digest those nutrients so they can be absorbed.  Maintain this delicate balance and you thrive.  

Plants need this kind of harmony in their soil’s immune system as well.  In my gardening life, I’ve learned that not all plants need the same mix of nutrients.  Some plants need more acidic soil where there is a lot of iron (like azaleas).  Some plants need more of an alkaline soil.  According to the National Gardening Association, tomatoes need a pH between 6.0 and 6.8. 

As Michael pointed out, if your plants don’t get enough of the specific nutrients they need, they simply can’t fight disease.

This is a concept that hits home for me, and for anyone whose own immune system has issues -- food allergy-related or otherwise.  Anja and I discussed plainly that we are what we eat – but not only because of the fruit or vegetables we put into our mouths.   We can truly benefit or suffer because of health of the soil from which our foodstuffs arise.  

So, good information, but how do you organically change the pH and nutritional content of your soil?

Second Expert:  Morgan Composting

Since you don’t know what you are going to get in your compost or aged manure from traditional companies, Michael recommended that I give Morgan Composting a call.  They sell completely organic, aged cow poo, worm casings… all kinds of earthy stuff for your garden.  They balance their products to enrich and maintain the health of your soil no matter what.  

I emailed Morgan’s and Alyson wrote me back.  Here is what she said:

First, our DairyDoo compost is a great start.  It will definitely get some good beneficial organisms in your soil to counteract the bad bugs...blight. I would apply it this year at a rate of 1/2 inch, over the entire garden.  This will ensure that the blight doesn't get into the walkways, and repopulate. If you did this, you will need about 2 yards (a pickup truck full).

Second, I would recommend using a summer foliar of fish Hydrosolate.  We use MultiBloom, which is real easy, and convenient to hook up to your hose. You can spray this once a week throughout the summer.   It is a fertilizer, but you would get more benefit from the essential oils, and also the minerals that fish has to offer.  It is also a systemic, and will go to work right away.  We sell those bottles for $12.95ea.

You can find these products at any of our fine local retailers, which are located on our website,

Third Expert:  Friends and Friends of Friends

I had also spoken to a coOrganic Heirloom Tomato and Pepper Plants from Trillium Havenuple of friends about their battles with blight.  Many gardeners are having this problem.  One person suggested lime (from limestone).  I asked Alysson about this at Morgan’s Composting.  She said that this might be helpful, as calcium can help in the battle of the blight, but the nutrients in the compost and oils in the fish Hydosolate will be the key.  She suggested getting a bag of high calcium (not dolomite, or high magnesium) lime.  The calcium content needs to be higher than the magnesium, because too much magnesium can cause a fruit rot in tomatoes.  So I picked up a 40 lb bag and spread half of it on the entire garden today.  If that goes well, we’ll do the other half.  It is supposed to be "non-toxic", and my dear father found me a pelleted version, so the dust was less annoying.  I didn’t wear a mask, but I would recommend doing so anyway.  Blagh.

Another friend of a friend battles blight in wet weather by dusting her tomato plants with powdered milk.  How interesting is that?  Since I have dairy allergies, I’ll stick with the lime.  This weekend, I’m hoping to start step two - building the immune system.  That is if I can get to the nearest Morgan’s retailer which will be a bit of a drive.   I bet it will be worth it.

Wish me luck!  Now go get your poo, then let me know about your gardening adventures and your battle with the blight.